As one of the world’s civilization heritage, Borobudur has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist relief in the world.
Borobudur temple is located in Magelang, a small town in the north of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The temple which was built in 9th century by Cailendra dynasty, has stood on a hill surrounded by 4 mountains on each cardinal direction. That mountains are: Merbabu to the East, Merapi to the Northwest, Sumbing to the South and Sindoro to the North.
I have visited Borobudur several times, and the story of this post is from my visit some time ago. That time along with my younger sister and our cousin, we spent few days of our holidays in Yogyakarta.
That sunny morning we left Sabana Homestay on foot to the Trans Yogya bus stop, just about 100meters from Sabana. Yes, we were going to visit Borobudur by public transportation, one thing we have never done before. FYI, usually we went there by car or bus with groups of family or friends.
According to Mr.Suto – owner of Sabana Homestay- we have to take Trans Yogya bus to the Jombor Bus Station. It was less than an hour later we have arrived in Jombor. Even though we have been to Yogyakarta many times, that was our first step to this bus station. I still remember the look on our faces when we got there. There were puzzles on our faces as we have to find a kind of bus with its route to Borobudur. And with our puzzled faces we asked bus station personnel. He smiled and pointed his fingers to the left side and …there the bus!. How come we did not recognized the letters JOMBOR – BOROBUDUR. Hahahah..how foolish we were…
The bus passed the small town of Sleman and Muntilan where along the way we were treated to a typical countryside views such as rice fields, houses, grocery stores , traditional markets, schools , mosques, churches, brick factories, craft industry houses , inns , small hotels plus dusty streets.
It took almost two hours to arrive at Borobudur village. Wait..the journey was not over yet because at this village we agreed to choose a horse carriage to proceed the trip. After a little bargain in Indonesian and Javanese, we finally able to ‘hijack’ the coachman to take us to the main entrance of Borobudur temple.
As I remember ,the conversation was full of laugh…we were not fluent in Javanese and the old coachman can not speak Indonesian. He spoke in very fine Javanese.
And finally, 10 minutes later, we arrived at the main gate, bought the tickets and we were given a piece of batik cloth to cover our lower body. Of course we have to return it back after the visit.
As we walked the path from the main gate, I stared at the Borobudur in the distance…so huge and ancient but amazingly keeps many people interested to come. We were no longer feel the heat of the sun as we began to roam on the stone steps.I could not imagine how millions of large stone from the surrounding rivers were lifted to form this magnificent building.
The temple was designed in Javanese Buddhist architecture and consists of nine stacked platforms, six squares and three circular and topped by a central dome. There are more than 2500 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. It is why Borobudur known as the world’s largest Buddhist temple.
Borobudur was built for 75 years under the leadership of architect named Gunadarma and of course there were no advanced equipment nor computer graphic design assistance.
Once completed, the temple known as a place of worship and pilgrimage which was mentioned in several inscriptions. It lasted only about 100 years, following the fall of the Sailendra dynasty. Due to this situation, Buddhist community around the temple gradually felt pressed by the adherents of Hinduism.
There was no wonder when in the future, the temple not well maintained and began to be forgotten. Slowly but surely nature began to take over the destruction process. Large trees and volcanic ash began to cover up this magnificent temple.
Then our history stated the services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles – the Governor General of England who ruled in Dutch East Indies ( now Indonesia) during the transition of Dutch colonial era to England in 1811-1816. Raffles was the one who found a large pile of rocks that caught his attention so he then ordered excavations around the site.
In 1835 the work was proceed by the Dutch General Governor named Hartman. The massive excavations carried out at that time were not give the best result due to the imperfect shape of the temple. Many parts of the temple were missing, cracked and or peeled off.
Furthermore, between the years 1907 – 1911, a man named Van Erf led a massive restoration even with conventional technology according to the time. The restoration was design to avoid more further damage. In my opinion, Van Erf also had contribute in saving the relics of our ancestors.
Finally, after Indonesia’s independence, the massive restoration was held by Indonesian government and UNESCO. It took about 10 years, from 1973 until February 1983. In 1991 the temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nowadays, Borobudur temple is visited by more than three million visitors each year and known as ‘a must see’ place if you visit Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
We spent more than three hours wandered around the temple. We took pictures , mingled and had a conversation with another visitors , asked many questions to the duty officers and even looked for shelter from the heat of the sun.
As I said before, we have been to this temple few times but we agreed that in the future we will surely keep coming here again. Come to this site. This temple. Borobudur.